The Power of Instructional Leadership
As the Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education of Roslyn Public Schools in Roslyn, New York, I wanted to implement a meaningful CTE business curriculum in our district. My goal was to find a program that would be an excellent fit for all students; those that are academically successful as well as students that haven’t yet found their academic attachment to education.
After lengthy research, I found an entrepreneurship program that was innovative, dynamic, and offered tremendous opportunity for growth for students and teachers while engaging community business professionals. The program promised to provide all students with the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment on cutting edge business curriculum, provide teacher support and training, and assist in the development of a network of community volunteers.
Experiential Immersion for Meaningful CTE Professional Development
A National Summit is held on the program each year and I felt it would be beneficial for myself, and the CTE teacher designated to teach this curriculum, to attend to educate ourselves more fully on this alternative teaching method. The three-day summit did not disappoint.
The focus of the Summit was to bring together those of us new to this concept of experiential learning, allow us to share our experiences, learn from one another, and build a professional network. In addition, I was indoctrinated into the how and why of this experiential learning program and I was able to learn firsthand about the results.
Students, both current and alumni who are now in higher education, were on site to share firsthand the impact that this program has had on their lives. The benefits are staggering…the life lessons that these students gained through collaboration, creative problem solving, managing failure, and success, etc. were incredibly exciting for an administrator.
Specifically, the entrepreneurship curriculum centers around allowing student teams to experience the highs and lows of bringing a business to life. Instead of learning about business concepts from a textbook, this experiential curriculum allows students to drive their own learning and create their own businesses under the tutelage of their teachers and mentors from the business community.
In an INCubatoredu class, students are put into multiple teams which are tasked with finding a solution to a problem they face every day. With the assistance and guidance of their teachers, who connect them with mentors from the business community with the professional skills appropriate, the student teams create a business model and then move into the testing phase to determine the marketability and viability of the product or service. The community volunteers assist the student teams with their business ideas approximately once a week throughout the year and challenge the students and encourage them to consider all the potential opportunities and pitfalls of their product or service.
The product or service continues to develop and iterate as it moves from the concept stage into the testing phase. The year culminates with a pitch where students present their businesses in front of potential investors.
The Teacher Becomes the Student
The National Summit provided an incredible learning experience for me as an administrator, but also as an individual. The potential for our district was evident immediately and the curriculum, training, and support were well established. However, it was what I learned as a “student” engaged in the summit that really resonated with me. I couldn’t have fully understood the dynamics until I walked in the students’ shoes as a participant in the course.
The National Summit allows the professional educators/participants to form teams and personally engage in a condensed version of the program over the three-day period.
Our team developed a product called Spunky Straps, which is an accessory for women’s shoes to keep them from slipping off their feet.
The process of developing a business idea, collaborating with my team, testing the viability of the product at various locations in Chicago and pitching our new business to judges was an exhilarating process. I was thrilled to understand firsthand what the students would be experiencing when I brought the concept home to my district. The training was comprehensive, intense and supportive and a highlight for me since I joined education.
In addition, having the opportunity to experience this program with a teacher from my district will have longstanding benefits as I can more fully understand and support the challenges and opportunities that this teacher, and this curriculum, will need going forward.
INCubatoredu Annual National Summit - Member Teachers and Administrators share what they gain year over year.
Collaboration to Unite and Elevate
There is no doubt in my mind that this experiential learning opportunity will benefit the next generation of high school students in our district as much as it has the students I met at the summit. These students, from over 122 schools in 18 states, expressed their passion for the program and the impact that it has had on their lives, academically, personally, and professionally.
I understand this passion because I was able to experience for myself the dynamic collaboration of working together for a common goal. The same collaboration for a common goal that the teachers and business leaders in our community can bring to our students by introducing new educational approaches and innovative educational teaching methods so that all students will benefit. And the same collaboration and common goal that inspires us as educators to better the world by bettering ourselves and providing our students the preparation they need for the world outside of secondary education.